Location: Grand Rapids, Michigan
The airport viewing park lies opposite the main runways from the main terminal on open, exposed land, with broad views of the horizon, runways, and terminal beyond – perfect for viewing landings and take-offs. Despite limited parking (57 cars) and amenities of the existing park (a lone portable toilet, deteriorating picnic tables, inadequate trash receptacles, and no shade), it is one of the most popular parks in the county. Additional parking, permanent toilets, upgraded barrier-free picnic sites, and sheltered gathering area formed the functional core of this project. Creating a renewed public place that welcomes, inspires, and engages formed the aspirational core.
The sloping twin roofs celebrate the trajectory of flight, providing shelter, shade, and gathering space while they create a sense of openness to the broad horizon, landscape and sky. Wood-cladding on the underside of each roof offers warmth and human-scale, adding to the place-making quality of the pavilion. The thickness of each roof plane was minimized using innovative, below-grade moment connections to resist the massive uplift of this open-air structure.
Design began in early 2016, with ground breaking in October 2016 and ribbon cutting in May 2017. The park’s parking capacity was doubled, with new space for busses and food trucks. Permanent toilets and shelter structures share a central location within the expanded site for maximum access across the park. All features are barrier-free, including new site furniture - picnic tables, benches, and trash receptacles – custom designed and locally fabricated for this project. Parking spaces are at the same elevation across the entire length of the expanded park for good sight lines to the pavilion from anywhere in the park. Working with existing site contours, the final design minimized earthmoving and site cost while managing sanitary and stormwater systems in heavy soil conditions without connection to the municipal system.